Seven years ago we spent three days at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, vowing to return to experience that grandeur again. This was the year, so with friends, Bob and Martha Davis, we left north Georgia on Tuesday, December 23rd in our Suburban for the trip to Tennessee. By the time we arrived, some five hours later, it was raining and turning colder, but once inside the hotel, none of that mattered. There were acres and acres of tropical gardens under a glass-paneled dome, all environmentally controlled at about 70 F.
The line at the registration was long, but we were soon in our room - one of some 2,600, all overlooking those beautiful gardens. We joined thousands of other bewildered guests, all trying to find their way through the maze of pathways. It took awhile to decipher the many maps and signs.
That first evening, after grabbing a sandwich at the food court, we took in the Yule Log ceremony, the ice sculpture display, and the Rockettes Christmas spectacular at the Grand Ole Opry. The Yule Log ceremony took place in one of the garden spots inside the Hotel where several medieval-costumed actors and singers re-enacted the ancient ceremony of the Yule Log. The ice sculptures were housed in a separate building within walking distance of the hotel. The large room was refrigerated down to 10 F. Upon entering the building, heavy coats were distributed to ward off the cold. There were hundreds of ice carvings of angels, snow men, Santa Claus, animals, and the nativity scene. Children were enjoying a long ice slide. At the Grand Ole Opry theater a little farther down the street, the sixteen Rockettes, along with several other singers and dancers, put on a dazzling display of precision dancing - all to Christmas theme music. The show ended with a beautiful nativity scene.
By the time the show was over and we had walked back to the hotel in the cold, we were all bushed. It had been a long day, so with the sounds of rushing water outside the room, it didn't take long to fall asleep.
Wednesday was the day we had tickets for a ride on the Cumberland River aboard the General Jackson showboat. We boarded a shuttle bus to travel the short distance to the dock. This replica of an old paddle-wheel steamboat ran a course of some seven miles downstream, then reversed course and returned. We were served a nice meal in the main theater-dining room, after which we were entertained by a terrifically funny, red-neck comedian - Tim Watson. He also sang and played the fiddle. By the time the meal and show were over, the boat had returned to the dock.
The girls spotted a new shopping mall across the street from the General Jackson dock, so before returning to the hotel, we had to do some mall walking. We all spent more time in the Barnes & Noble book store than anywhere else. Soon, it was five o'clock and time to catch the last shuttle back to the hotel. We did some more exploring around the hotel complex, finding an interesting pub where we had a delicious bowl of soup.
Then, we retired to our room to introduce the Davises to Joker. After a number of games, the girls proved their strategic genius by clearly winning the most games. They followed that up the next day with a similar outcome.
We started Christmas day with a full breakfast at the Cascades Restaurant. Then, the girls went shopping among the myriad of shops in the hotel while the boys began reading some of the many books purchased at Barnes & Noble.
The final entertainment was a dinner show Christmas evening in the Delta Ball Room in the convention area of the hotel. Country music star, Linda Davis, and her family sang Christmas songs after a home style meal. Afterward, we played cards for a couple of hours, then retired.
On Friday morning, the sun was out, and it looked like a beautiful day - from inside the hotel. Outside, it was 26 degrees and the windshield of the car was coated with ice. It took awhile to get all that cleaned off before we loaded up for the return trip home. Once on the way, it was not long before we arrived safely on our mountain. It had been a very pleasant way to spend Christmas.